Pictured is a portrait of Charles Blair Macdonald painted by American artist Gari Melchers. Macdonald, who designed the Old White golf course at The Greenbrier, was born in 1855 in Ontario, Canada. He grew up in Chicago and was sent to Scotland as a teenager to live with his grandfather and attend St. Andrews University. The “gawfers” in St. Andrews caught his attention, and MacDonald’s grandfather arranged for his grandson to learn the sport from Tom Morris, one of the great players. Morris won the British Open four times.
Macdonald returned to Chicago in 1874. In 1892, he laid out his first course – seven holes – on his in-law’s estate in Lake Forest, Illinois. He went on to design the first 18-hole course in America at the Chicago Golf Club. A good player, Macdonald was the first person to win the U. S. Amateur Championship in 1895. He became a successful stockbroker in Chicago and New York and designing golf courses was something of an avocation.
In 1913-1914, he designed The Greenbrier’s Old White, the first of three 18-hole courses at the resort. In 1914, while visiting The Greenbrier, Macdonald was entertained at the nearby Oakhurst 9-hole course on the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Russell Montague. Oakhurst is considered to be the first golf course in America and the site of the first golf club.
Known as the father of golf course architecture, Macdonald died in 1939, but left us with this quote: “The object of a bunker or trap is not only to punish a physical mistake, to punish a lack of control, but also to punish pride and egotism.”
Sources: Golf Course Architecture, Golf Bible, Metropolitan Golf Association, Yale University, New York Times.